Every group has one: The friend who knows how to make all the new cocktails and has the ingredients in his home for any drink you crave. He also has his own home bar and it’s a place of considerable pride. Hobbyist bartenders are often easy to shop for, but it’s boring to wrap yet another bottle of high-end or exotic liqueur as a gift. Use some imagination to find high-tech gifts for your favorite modern mixologist.
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Sipping a glass of single malt may be the epitome of whiskey drinking but until now you had to settle for either a room temperature or watered-down drink; ice gives whiskey a pleasant cool temperature but melts and dilutes the flavor of the drink. Instead, give your favorite purist bartender a set of whiskey stones to solve this conundrum. The cubes are generally made of soapstone, although stainless steel versions exist. Put them in the freezer for a couple of hours and the whiskey will attain perfect sipping temperature without any dilution of flavor. Whiskey stones are available at a number of online retail shops, and cost around $20 for a set.
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The best bartenders have warm drinks in their repertoire, not just cold ones. Irish coffee, cocoa with butterscotch schnapps and spiked spiced cider all hit the spot at the end of a cold winter’s day. The problem with these drinks is you typically have to make half of them in the kitchen. Take a shopping trip to Macy’s and pick up a Keurig coffee maker for your bartender who can then make an entire drink in one spot. These one-cup brewers use small containers of coffee, cocoa and spiced cider to create one perfect cup at a time. Perched on the end of the bar, it’s the quintessential appliance for winter drink-making. Keurigs start at around $150; you can purchase accessories such as boxes of coffee pods and racks to hold them as additional gifts.
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Bartenders with truly great wine collections know that the best flavor happens the day a wine is opened. You can recork a bottle, but air will change the taste of the leftover wine. The Coravin 1000 wine system solves that problem, allowing you to drink only one glass of your favorite vintage and leave the rest of the bottle as if it were never touched. A thin needle is passed through the cork and injects argon gas into the bottle. This forces wine up into the shaft of the needle and into a waiting wine glass. After the needle is removed, the hole left is so small that the cork seals itself. The argon in the bottle takes up the space the wine formerly occupied, while avoiding the oxidized flavor of partial bottles of wine. Manufacturers claim that partial bottles will remain good for years after being tapped with this system. The Coravin 1000 comes with or without the charging argon capsules, and costs around $300.